By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Knowledge is supposed to shine light on the world, but some city schools have been embracing darkness — for a good cause.
Public schools switched off lights, unplugged appliances and generally powered down from March 4 through April 1 to compete in the Department of Education's Green Cup Challenge, a citywide effort to slash energy use.
The DOE on Monday announced $100,000 in grants to the 10 schools that cut their power use the most. The money will be used for "energy-saving programs to improve building operations and maintenance," according to a DOE statement.
The top energy-saving school was the Upper West Side's Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, a campus of six schools on Amsterdam Avenue and West 65th Street. Together the schools cut their power bills by 35.1 percent, earning them a $25,000 grant.
In fourth place was P.S. 166, the Richard Rodgers School of the Arts and Technology, on West 89th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues. The school trimmed energy consumption by 23.3 percent and won a $10,000 grant for its effort.
P.S. 166 assigned a "climate captain" to every classroom to monitor progress, and parent Emily Fano said she papered the school with fliers to remind students to keep shades up, lights off and computers powered down.
Fano, co-chair of the school's green/wellness committee, also worked with P.S. 166's custodial staff to ensure that lights were turned off in the basement and after hours.
Fifth-graders kept their classmates on track by making daily loudspeaker announcements, sometimes with jokes or riddles, about the Green Cup Challenge. On Fridays a "green team" inspected every classroom to monitor progress.
By the end, students were gung-ho about saving energy, Fano said.
"I've had children come up to me and say, we shouldn't just do this for a prize, we should do this all year," Fano said.
P.S. 166 has a track record of green-themed wins: last year the school was the winner of the Green Cup Challenge, reducing energy consumption by 17.5 percent.
Other Green Cup winners were: Hudson Cliffs P.S./I.S. 187 in Washington Heights; Edison Career and Technical Education High School in Queens; Hubert H. Humphrey P.S. 57 on Staten Island; The Brooklyn New School/P.S. 146; Fresh Meadows P.S. 173 in Queens; the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Queens; Lower Lab P.S. 77/P.S. 198; and the Academy for Careers in Television and Film I.S. 204.